Monday, February 8, 2016

Budweiser ups the anti-craft ante; Celebrities shill for ABI; I roll my eyes


Last year, Budweiser went on the offense against the craft segment of the beer industry with their obtuse "Brewed the hard way" Super Bowl commercial. This year, they did more or less the same thing with their new "Not backing down" ad. Of course, there were a few other Bud-centric moments and ads that also deserve discussion, so let's break them down:

The Amy Schumer/Seth Rogen "So Totally Not Independence Day"* Bud Light ad:
*my name for it

I had heard about this a while ago and had seen stills from the ad, so I knew it was coming. First of all, it's a bit disappointing to see these "It" comedians of the moment shilling for a product as banal as Bud Light and a corporation as wily as Anheuser-Busch/InBev (ABI). Schumer is related to New York senator Chuck Schumer, and much like him is also a progressive liberal, so it's very bizarre that she would hawk such a product. That immediately makes her opinion irrelevant if she ever tries to talk about "The 1%" and "evil corporations" or anything in that Bernie Sanders genre. Though it just goes to show that anyone will bow down to the almighty dollar.

As for Rogen, well, I can't say I'm entirely surprised because he definitely has mainstream appeal and I can buy him doing this kind of commercial. Everybody seems to like him. But on the other hand, I'm a little surprised ABI hired him as a pitchman since he has been one of the faces of the "420 Movement" of the last few years. A stoner pitching light beer? I suppose it goes hand in hand.

The commercial itself was fine; kinda cute, somewhat funny, but not especially memorable or original. As bad a beer as Bud Light is, I do enjoy their adverts more than those of Budweiser proper since they're more about people having fun and acting zany while they drink Bud Light. But like I said last year, Bud Light and Budweiser ads never make much of an effort to talk about the quality or appeal of their product. Rather, they're just 15-30 second sketch comedy routines that happen to revolve around fizzy yellow beer.

Helen Mirren's anti-drunk driving PSA

The Schumer/Rogen commercial was a bit of an odd choice, but it's completely and totally logical when compared to the choice of using 70-year-old British actress Helen Mirren in an anti-drunk driving PSA-ish spot.
Umm... what?

Okay, it's nice ABI is putting out a kinda/sorta public service announcement about drunk driving being bad, but it raises so many questions:
  • Why Helen Mirren? I can't think of someone more completely removed from Budweiser's core demographic than her. I'd imagine the average Budweiser chugger has no idea who she is. I assume it's suppose to be funny since it's an older lady with a classy British accent doling out a passive-aggressive scolding. Sure, the concept of it all is interesting, but the actual execution comes across kind of creepy, and, IMHO - not funny at all.
  • If ABI is really so concerned about drunk drivers, why haven't they been putting out PSAs like this for decades?! I'm not buying it, ABI. I'm also not buying that Helen Mirren is a Budweiser drinker.
  • Also, did you notice the label is not even facing the camera? That's just lousy direction. I can't believe they went with this for a Super Bowl spot.
"Eh, they know what the label looks like by now." - probably what the director said when seeing this shot
Budweiser repeats itself with the "Not Backing Down" campaign

Last year, Bud's "Brewed the Hard Way" ad was so in-your-face and so obviously mocking and attacking the craft segment, there was no way to ignore it. This year, they did more or less the same thing with "Not Backing Down".
I saw this and just rolled my eyes. My initial reaction was, "That's all you got, ABI?" There's nothing in there nearly as creative as last year's ad and certainly nothing in the way of a clever dig like the hipster-looking dude sniffing the pumpkin peach ale. The closest it comes is with the "Not a fruit cup" part with the old dude flicking a lemon out of the beer. Though that's not so much a burn on craft beer drinkers as it is on restaurants and bars that don't know how to serve it properly. Ask any brewer worth his salt and he'll tell you to save the lemon or orange garnish (usually for a hefeweizen or a witbier) for a lesser beer. Or maybe it was a jab at Blue Moon? Though I don't know any bartender that would garnish Budweiser with a fruit wedge in the first place.

One thing I did like about this ad was toward the end where they admit this:

Well, I actually find myself agreeing with a Budweiser ad! This stuff definitely is not for everyone. It's for people whose definition of beer starts and ends with Budweiser and whose definition of fine dining includes McDonald's and Wendy's. For anyone else who has refined their palate just a bit, there's a million other beers worth drinking.

But, paradoxically enough, I think this "not for everyone" notion is backwards and hypocritical. Isn't the whole basis and success of Budweiser and its related brands based on the fact that it appeals to the lowest common denominator? If I described a beer as being "not for everyone" you'd think I was talking about some kind of obscure style or eccentric/novelty brew. Full-flavored beers, whether they're traditional styles or experimental recipes, don't tend to be for everyone. For example: Stone's Arrogant Bastard or Ruination or one of those Rogue Voodoo Donut brews, or a gose, or a Flanders Red, or a rauch beer, or most any spice/herb/vegetable brew, etc. I think we can all agree, those are beers that aren't for everyone. Where does Budweiser get off implying it's an acquired taste?

Peyton Manning says he's going to celebrate his victory by drinking a bunch of Budweiser
I was walking out of the room when I heard this. I actually had to turn around and walk back in and ask my girlfriend if I had heard that properly. She confirmed that he did indeed say that. I sighed and figured it was simply a product placement, like the classic "I'm going to Disney World" line. But according to Market Watch, it was simply a free plug on Peyton's behalf. Budweiser didn't pay him to say that.


A quick research online reveals this isn't the first time he said he'll celebrate with an ABI product. The reason for that might be due to the fact Peyton actually owns shares in an ABI-owned wholesaler in Louisiana.

Okay, so is Peyton simply plugging a product he has invested in or does he genuinely like Budweiser? I'm hoping for the former, but I wouldn't be surprised if both are true.

Hey Peyton, why not plug a Denver-based craft brewery like, say, Breckenridge? Oh wait, nevermind.

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